JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien scored as Ghana defeated Sudan 2-0 in Accra Sunday to become the first African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari gave the 'Black Stars' an early lead and Essien added a second soon after half-time, unleashing a drive that flew into the net at the near post.
The result coupled with closest challengers Benin and Mali drawing 1-1 in Cotonou a few hours earlier left a Ghana side boasting a 100 percent record with an unassailable seven-point Group D advantage.
"It was so important to win, regardless of how we achieved the result. It is still special for us professionals to return home and bring joy to the people of Ghana," Essien told reporters.
"Teamwork brought us success as in previous qualifiers. The side did not feel under pressure because we are used to playing in front of packed crowds like the one in Accra tonight.
"The people of Ghana wanted us to win and we did not let them down. What a fantastic feeling to be the first African country to qualify for the first World Cup to be staged in Africa."
Serbia-born coach Milovan Rajevac said: "It is a priceless honour for my players to represent their country and qualify for the World Cup.
"This team is very hungry to go to the finals again. My players are aware of what they can achieve and have the quality to go far. I always believed we would qualify and am very confident about the future."
It will be the second successive World Cup appearance for Ghana, who did best of the five African teams in Germany three years ago by reaching the knockout second round before losing 3-0 to defending champions Brazil.
A quarter of the 32 qualifiers for the first World Cup are known with Ghana joining Australia, Brazil, Japan, Netherlands, North Korea, South Korea and hosts South Africa.
Mali had threatened to put the Accra celebrations on hold by taking the lead through former France youth international Mamadou Samassa on 71 minutes only for Mohamed Aoudou to equalise three minutes from full-time.
Tunisia snatched a 2-2 draw in Nigeria thanks to an 90th-minute Oussama Darragi goal in a top-of-the-table Group B clash and maintained a two-point advantage with two rounds left in October and November.
A capacity 60,000 crowd saw Osaze Odemwingie fire the 'Super Eagles' into the lead via a close-range shot midway through the first half only for Nabil Taider to level soon after.
Tunisia-based Michael Eneramo poked a a cross into the net 10 minutes from full-time to put the home team ahead again only for club mate Darragi to fire a Haitham Mrabet pass into the net from an acute angle.
Mozambique edged Kenya 1-0 in the same mini-league courtesy of a goal midway through the second half from veteran South Africa-based striker Manuel 'Tico Tico' Bucuane.
Tunisia have eight points, Nigeria six, Mozambique four and Kenya three with the leaders chasing a fourth consecutive appearance at the quadrennial showcase of international football.
Adel Taarabt scored two minutes into stoppage time as Morocco were rewarded for some enterprising second-half play with a 1-1 draw away to Togo in a Group A clash.
Togo led from the fourth minute through Moustapaha Salifou as they returned to Lome after a three-match ban following post-match violence at a 2008 African Nations Cup qualifier.
Gabon have six points, Togo five, Cameroon four and Morocco three although the 'Indomitable Lions' have a chance to go top Wednesday when they host the surprise pacesetters in Yaounde.
The five group winners qualify for the World Cup in South Africa between June 11 and July 11 and the top three finishers in each mini-league secure places at the Nations Cup five months earlier with hosts Angola.
|S. Muntari||14' 43'|
|Coach: M. Rajevac|
for S. Appiah 74'
for M. Amoah 86'
for S. Muntari 88'
|Newcastle Jets 1 Central Coast Mariners 1: Honours even in F3 Derby|
|Half a century of Kazuyoshi Miura: Japanese legend plays on 50th birthday|
|´Criminal´ if Shaw doesn´t succeed at United - Neville|
|Kaka scores first goal in Orlando City´s new stadium|
|Conte lauds Chelsea´s milestone man Fabregas|
|Pochettino questions readiness in Tottenham´s trophy quest|
|Mata wants to extend Manchester United contract|
|Mourinho is a winner - Cantona backs United for success|
|Allegri grateful Juve control Serie A title destiny|
|Goalless Muller was the best player, says Ancelotti after thrashing|
|Phil Neville backs Rashford to match Griezmann|
|Juventus 2 Empoli 0: Champions cruise to 10-point gap at summit|
|Howe refusing to panic as Bournemouth´s struggles continue|
|Zarate was making the difference before injury - Mazzarri|
|I owe him my eternal gratitude - Vardy´s emotional Ranieri tribute|
|Cantona: Ibrahimovic is like me|
|Watford 1 West Ham 1: Ayew halts injury-hit hosts|
|Napoli 0 Atalanta 2: Caldara double stuns Sarri´s men|
|Ancelotti: It was a perfect day|
|Championship review: Newcastle drop points, Leeds clip Owls´ wings|
|Allardyce hails Van Aanholt and Sakho|
|Koeman lays into ´lucky´ Everton´s second-half display|
|Conte: We still need 29 points for Premier League title|
|We need an Aubameyang who does not think too much - Tuchel|
|Guingamp 1 Monaco 2: Glik, Fabinho on target|
|Marco Silva blames lack of focus as Hull remain in drop zone|
|Lukaku becomes Everton´s joint leading Premier League scorer|
|Real Betis 1 Sevilla 2: Sampaoli´s men heap pressure on Real Madrid|
|RB Leipzig 3 Cologne 1: Hosts capitalise on errors to stay hot on Bayern´s heels|
|Hull City 1 Burnley 1: Keane on target as 10-man Clarets end dire away run|
|Chelsea 3 Swansea City 1: Fabianski´s error helps Premier League leaders move 11 points clear|
|Neuer reaches 100 Bundesliga clean sheets for Bayern in record-breaking fashion|
|Everton 2 Sunderland 0: Unhappy Goodison return for Moyes as Lukaku wraps it up|
|West Brom 2 Bournemouth 1: McAuley winner piles pressure on Howe|
|Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0: Van Aanholt proves difference in nervy basement battle|
|Luis Enrique dismisses claims of dressing room discontent at Barcelona|
|Bayern Munich 8 Hamburg 0: Lewandowski hits hat-trick in special day for Ancelotti|
|Freiburg 0 Borussia Dortmund 3: Aubameyang back in the goals with a brace|
|#Piegate bites back as Sutton are forced to use outfield player in goal|
|Schmeichel denies players met with Leicester board to get Ranieri sacked|
|Spalletti would not swap Dzeko for Icardi|
|Emery understands Marseille rivalry and hopes PSG can repeat Barca win|
|Ibrahimovic better than ever and could play on until he turns 40 - Mourinho|
|Simeone: Barcelona still the best team in the world|
|A-League Review: Victory stay in Sydney hunt, Roar slip up at home|
|Zidane hopes potential France return will boost Benzema|
|I have not talked to anyone at Leicester - Mancini on replacing Ranieri|
|LaLiga teams raise their game against Real Madrid, claims Zidane|
|Arrivederci, Claudio! Ranieri says his final Leicester goodbyes|
|Soldado expects Real Madrid to come out fighting after Valencia loss|
|Montella hoping to remain AC Milan coach despite impending takeover|
|Valencia hopes EFL Cup triumph can inspire late title charge|
|Pele´s son vows to clear his name after being jailed for money laundering|
|Wijnaldum highlights Kante loss as crucial to Leicester´s downfall|
|Lyon rejected chance to sign Sakho, says Aulas|
|Koeman hopes Southampton lose EFL Cup final to boost Everton´s European hopes|
|Mata insists Manchester United will not take EFL Cup final for granted|
|Simeone´s Atletico starting to decline, Abbiati claims|
|Chelsea´s Fabregas ´100 per cent´ staying at Stamford Bridge|
|´Being Joey´ - Dyche talks up Barton TV show|
|Messi the best of all time, says Jovetic|
|You can define an era - Buffon wishes Donnarumma happy birthday|
|Clement: Llorente wants to star against Chelsea|
|Koeman not interested in Everton renewal amid Barca links|
|Rivals scared of Ibrahimovic, says United team-mate Herrera|
|Schmeichel pays tribute to Ranieri|
|Yaya Toure wants to play with Neymar and Coutinho|
|Mourinho: It´s more difficult to win now|
|I didn´t sleep for six days – Conte motivated by last-gasp title loss|
|It all depends on success - Klopp knows trophies are a must|
|Barkley targets finishing above Liverpool|
|Championship Review: Birmingham ease pressure on Zola with derby win|
|Mourinho could start Rooney in EFL Cup final|
|Comeback kid Le Bihan moves Nice level with Monaco|
|Leicester job an amazing opportunity - Rowett pitches to replace Ranieri|
|Deschamps free to pick Benzema, Le Graet reveals|
|Valencia request new time for Barcelona fixture|
|Rabona-fide brilliance! Watch Kovacic´s marvellous strike in Real Madrid training|
|Hull´s Silva cools Hernandez CSL rumours|
|Frustrated Allardyce accepts Palace players are struggling|
|Sampaoli tells Sevilla to learn from Real Madrid errors in ´most important game of the year´|
|Raiola ready to cut off Balotelli´s tongue after latest red card|
|My dream died after Leicester sack - Ranieri|
|Schalke sign Bentaleb from Tottenham|
|Puel welcomes Mkhitaryan´s EFL Cup final absence|
|Arsenal chairman concedes Gunners are playing for pride against Bayern|
|Melbourne City 1 Sydney FC 3: Bobo double helps leaders back to winning ways|
|Kohler refuses to write off Gotze|
|Ranieri will be remembered in 2,000 years, says Mancini|
|You don´t owe anyone - Henry tells Rooney to make China move if it makes him happy|
|I was not an Italian spy! - No ulterior motive for Conte in Eddie Jones meeting|
|Inter coach Pioli expects tight Roma clash|
|Mourinho: Leicester should name stadium after Ranieri|
|Conte: Ancelotti the best Italian coach in the world|
|Carrick in, Mkhitaryan out for Manchester United in EFL Cup final|
|Klopp compares Ranieri sacking to Trump, Brexit triumphs|
|Ranieri did not lose Leicester dressing room, insists Shakespeare|
|Conte willing to risk sack to lead Chelsea to Premier League glory|
|Disapponting for managers around the world - Premier League bosses react to Ranieri sacking|
|Ribery ready for Bayern Munich comeback|
|Celtic fined for Manchester City crowd trouble|
|Vardy´s goal decline and Mahrez´s assist struggles: The Opta stats behind Ranieri´s Leicester demise|
|Bayern boss Ancelotti vows never to repeat middle finger gesture|
|Medel urges Sanchez to quit Arsenal for Inter|
|Europa League draw: Manchester United to play Rostov, Lyon v Roma|
|Aubameyang dry spell worries me - Tuchel|
|Varane a doubt for Napoli as Real Madrid confirm muscle injury|
|Leicester job favourite Mancini: I am sorry for my friend Ranieri|
|Allegri welcomes back Bonucci following apology|
|Montella targets lengthy AC Milan stay|
|Lineker cries after Ranieri is sacked|
|Ranieri sacking ´the biggest shock in a decade´|
|Wenger ´witch-hunt´ has gone too far, says Bilic|
|Lewandowski better than Benzema, Suarez, Costa - Matthaus|
|Sticks and Stones may break my bones - Man City defender unhurt by criticism|
|Atletico Madrid v Barcelona: Simeone´s men primed to land on punch-drunk Barca|
|Pogba no machine like Messi or Ronaldo, says Mata|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain adamant Arsenal ´more than capable of competing for title´|
|Monaco star Falcao was almost lost to baseball|
|FC Dallas 4 Arabe Unido 0: Champions League semis beckon for Americans|
|No gratitude in football - Spalletti saddened by Ranieri sacking|
|Alli not to blame for Tottenham´s Europa League exit - Pochettino|
|Mourinho pays tribute to axed Leicester boss Ranieri|
|Europa League Review: Spurs crash out, Stindl stuns Fiorentina, Lyon destroy AZ in record-equalling|
|Bastia punished over Balotelli abuse|
|Eriksen blames Tottenham´s shock Europa League exit on poor finishing|